Ask: Aromantic Characters Without the Word

An anon asks on Tumblr:

Do you have any advice for writing aromantic characters without explicitly using the word “aromantic?” I’m personally an aro person, but I am writing a fictional story that uses language that does not yet have words for “aromantic” (furthermore, “bisexual” or “demiboy” or other LGBTQ+ labels that have been around for a while). I have tried a few different methods of getting orientation and identity across but I’m curious about your thoughts. I want my representation to be explicit as possible.

For me, anon, it boils down to showing. Getting a good handle on the difference between showing and telling is essential in my opinion, both for good writing generally and for good writing of marginalised characters. There are times when it is appropriate to tell the reader something while never showing it, of course–factual information and scene transitions, like the passing of time or quick observations, are often best told. Identity and identity-related experiences, though, should be shown as much if not more than they are told.

Done right, folks familiar with “aromantic” as a concept will label your characters themselves without your using the word in-text. If they don’t already know the word, your showing will still contextualize that experience when they happen across it. Readers, even some alloromantic readers, will go “oh, that’s that character in X-book!” in the same way aro-specs related to Keladry of Mindelan and Jughead long before anyone got to naming them as aro. If this happens with characters who are not intentionally written as aro, I promise you it will happen with your characters, anon. Readers are smart and you know what you’re writing about. You do not have to worry about this.

Remember that an alloromantic’s inability to see an aro character is amatonormativity, not a lack in authorial depiction.

With regards telling and the use of the word “aromantic”, the idea that we have to go to extremes to explain or clarify a character’s aromanticism for an unknowing audience is in itself an amatonormative one. (Consider, for contrast, how narratives treat heterosexuality!) While it is difficult for us to let go of the need to explain, especially when aromanticism is not well understood, it’s important to recognise that need to explain and label is another shade of marginalisation. Furthermore, a culture that doesn’t have such history of marginalisation might not have any need to label at all. In a setting absent amatonormativity, telling the reader within the narrative that your character is something that doesn’t need to be identified in-universe can feel intrusive, so it may be that telling as a tool for communicating aromanticism is not in your current toolbox, anon.

How much telling you require also means considering the needs of your audience, because your intended audience will determine the amount of telling, explanation and exposition required. You’ll label and explain aromanticism for a mainstream audience very differently than for an a-spec or aro-spec one. Decide who’ll get the best from your work and target your degree of explanation and exposition at that audience. The more exposition, the reduced chance of misinterpretation, yes, but too much can alienate an aro-spec readership who just wants to see an aro knight slay dragons over another 101 tutorial.

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The Wind and the Stars – K. A. Cook

Cover for "The Wind and the Stars" by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a night-time scene of black, silhouette-style tree branches against a cloudy sky with a full moon, a lighter halo of cloud surrounding it, in the top centre of the cover. The title text, in white serif and antique handdrawn-style type, is framed by three white curlicues, and a fourth curlicue borders the author credit at the bottom of the cover.

Cover for "The Wind and the Stars" by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a night-time scene of black, silhouette-style tree branches against a cloudy sky with a full moon, a lighter halo of cloud surrounding it, in the top centre of the cover. The title text, in white serif and antique handdrawn-style type, is framed by three white curlicues, and a fourth curlicue borders the author credit at the bottom of the cover.True love’s kiss will break any spell. Always be kind to wizened crones. The youngest son is most favoured by wise foxes and crows. Princes save princesses from beastly dragons and towers overgrown with briar brambles. A happily ever after always involves a wedding…

The Wind and the Stars is a short aro-ace fairy tale about heroes, love, adulthood and the worlds we make in the stories we tell.

Links: Smashwords | Gumroad | PDF | EPUB | MOBI

Length: 1, 309 words / 4 pages.

Content advisory: Please note that this story contains non-explicit sexual references. It’s also a story about storytelling, so it refers to common fairy tale structures that contain misogyny, heterosexism and amatonormativity, along with depicting society’s unquestioning reaction to these structures. There’s no romance beyond the mention of other characters in romantic relationships. It’s also written in second person.

Words, the right ones, can tell you who you are.

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Ask: Ace Identity and the SAM

An anon asks on Tumblr:

To be honest, in the past I was on the exclusionists’ side with the SAM (Split Attraction Model). It’s harmful! Stop forcing it on people! Attractions don’t need to be separated like that! Even though I myself am technically aroace. I was angry because I felt like I was being erased and spoken over in the ace community. I felt like I was being forced to separate my romantic and sexual attraction when they weren’t separate. It made me furious that I couldn’t make a post or comic calling myself asexual without some ace commenting, “no, asexuality is actually x aces can do/feel y that’s not what asexual means!” As if I’m confused.

So basically I hated that the SAM was forced on the word asexual any time someone used it. I’ve somewhat changed my mind recently: I now understand that splitting attraction is crucial to some people, but I do think we need something else because I can also understand genuine reasons why some are adverse to it and feel like its forced on them. There has been concern with using existing terminology and splitting them into romantic and sexual attractions.

Maybe instead of doing this we could create terms that are shorter and mean the same, combining the two attractions into one distinct identity. For example, a panromantic asexual is, uhh, tresexual? Not the real alternative–just to show what I mean. Arosexual or aseromantic could be umbrella terms for aspecs who feel one type of attraction and not the other. I’m not saying we should abandon the terms we have now.

Like I said, I’m not against the SAM any more (I’m sorry I ever was) and definitely think anyone can identify how they want. But I think we as a community need labels that are more concise and convey more information. I think it will make it easier for aspecs to find people that are most like them instead of just one part.

Just so folks know: you (general you) don’t need to insist to me that you’ve changed your ways. You don’t need to prove to me that you’ve learnt better. You can just say “I no longer believe that” and leave the conversation there. I dislike the purity culture tendency of having to constantly demonstrate one’s growth and resulting apology in order to reveal a less-palatable truth about the people we were, and I’m not going to demand it of the people who are doing the risky and dangerous thing of revealing their past in conversation with me.

We can’t grow as a community unless we talk about the beliefs we held and why we held them. We will fail in outreach to others if people don’t feel safe to talk about their history–we will fail to learn the unspoken undercurrents of why harmful attitudes are compelling. Folks who have learnt and changed are a vital bridge between two sides, and I think any requirement to constantly apologise or offer up reassurances for making a mistake long after is only going to stop the people we most need to hear from talking to us.

And oh is this a reason we need to better discuss and understand.

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Aro-Spec Artist Profile: Tylea

Artist Profile - Tylea

Our next aro-spec creator is Tylea, already known to us here as @afroenby –one of the biggest likers and rebloggers of this account!

Tylea is a black, agender, neurodivergent, mentally ill, bi-alterous, aro-ace, enby author who specialises in dancing and narrative: microfiction, short stories, novels and poetry, particularly young adult/new adult speculative fiction.

You can find and support more of their work on a variety of platforms. Tylea also goes by @tylea-writes here on Tumblr and is known by afroenby on Twitter, WordPress and Patreon. They have multiple works available for purchase on Gumroad and for free reading on Wattpad. If you have a dollar or two you’re wanting to invest in worthy aro-spec talent on a less-regular basis, please check out their Ko-Fi!

With us Tylea talks about alterous attraction and their road towards aromantic identity, their passion for writing and dancing, their many aromantic characters, the challenges of writing relationships when neurodivergent and aromantic, and their difficulty in connecting with communities as a multiply-marginalised creative. Aside from producing some wonderfully diverse works, they are an unsung hero when it comes to boosting and promoting aro-spec talent here on Tumblr, so please let’s give them all our love, encouragement, gratitude, kudos and follows for taking the time to explore what it is to be aromantic and creative.

Artist Profile - Tylea

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Ask: Surviving Hate, Erasure and Amatonormativity

An anon asks on Tumblr:

Hello, I love reading your posts and I think all the activism you do for the aro community is beautiful and needs to be done, so thank you so much <#. I personally realized I was aroace a month or so ago–How do you manage just being an aromantic person in just daily life without getting crushed under all the erasure and ignorance in the world? I’m worried about going into the adult world as someone with this orientation because of all of what I hear about aros not being heard and all the stories about aces being taken advantage of, and I’m honestly scared of all the ignorance and amisia I keep hearing is in the world. I’m not out to more than my close friends and family and the online communities I’m in, but you don’t have to be out to be hurt by antagonism or ignorance from others, and the amatonormativity I keep seeing *everywhere* is starting to make me feel hopeless. What do you do with these feelings? Thank you for reading this and for your blog <#

Thank you so very much for the kind and lovely words, anon!

I will agree with you that you absolutely do not have to be out to be hurt by hatred, erasure, dismissal and invisibility, because this line of thought isn’t said enough for my liking.

First, I’ll point out that self-care is important. If you haven’t already, get to know what what distracts you, what makes you happy, what takes you away from anxiety or frustration, be it books or TV or crafts or talking with a friend. Have these things ready as a waiting toolbox for when you need to escape the pressures of the world. Keep books or music that make you happy on your phone or in your bag, have a stash of a food you like in the cupboard, know where you can go to relax and decompress. Pursue hobbies unrelated to activism and give yourself space to enjoy them.

Second, please know that you can and should make full and shameless use of unfollowing, blocking and blacklisting options. If you want to make for yourself a paradise where your dashboard bears no mention of allosexism or amatonormativity, do it. Having these spaces allows you to more easily bear those situations where you can’t avoid debating your existence, and you are under no obligation to endure, explain and educate. You are always allowed to put your needs, your safety and your limitations ahead of both other people’s demands and the fight to be seen as human. You are always allowed to choose some battles and let others ago. You are always allowed to say that you are done with a particular conversation and stop. You are always allowed to say that you are not capable of this or any other fight. You are always allowed to centre your needs, anon, and while I am less good at this than I’d like to be, it is difficult to accomplish everything else I discuss if you can’t make a point of establishing the boundaries you need to survive.

I do two things with my feelings, anon, that allow them to rest more easily inside my skin: creativity and gratitude.

Continue reading “Ask: Surviving Hate, Erasure and Amatonormativity”

Aro-Spec Artist Profile: Nate

Artist Profile - Nate

Our next aro-spec creator is Nate, better known on Tumblr as @astriiformes!

Nate is an asexual, aromantic, neurodivergent and mentally ill trans guy/person continuing the tradition of aro-spec creators demonstrating an impressive diversity of talent. He writes, cosplays, creates filk music and produces visual art–and that’s when he’s not playing D&D and attending conventions!

You can find him on Twitter as planar_ranger and on 8tracks as azhdarchidaen. He’s also found on AO3 as azhdarchidaen, with a prolific selection of works for the Gravity Falls, Doctor Who, Critical Role and Pacific Rim fandoms! If you have a dollar or two you’re wanting to invest in worthy aro-spec talent, please take a look at Nate’s Ko-Fi!

With us Nate talks about expressing emotions through creativity, the intersection of aromanticism and perfectionism, the importance of storytelling as self-expression and his passion for D&D as a way of giving voice to his aromantic experience. His love for fandom, creativity and storytelling shines through every word, so please let’s give him all our love, encouragement, gratitude, kudos and follows for taking the time to explore what it is to be aromantic and creative.

Artist Profile - Nate

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Aro-Spec Artist Profile: Gracie

Our latest aro-spec creator is Gracie, known here on Tumblr as @mattdaddorkio, @gracietheshadowwriter and @abookishace!

Gracie is a prolific aromantic and asexual writer who writes the Magnus Bane/Alec Lightwood pairing from Shadowhunters, and her work can be found on AO3 under the username gracie_the_shadow_hunter.

With us Gracie talks about romance and shipping as an aro in fandom, her enjoyment of a good love story and the power of prompts as encouragement! It’s wonderful to see an aro creative’s take on and interest in romance, so please let’s give Gracie all our love, encouragement, gratitude, kudos and follows for taking the time to explore what it is to be aromantic and creative.

Please note that the last two images, under the cut, feature kissing. These images are underneath the answer to the question “How can the aro-spec community best help you as a creative?” if our romance-repulsed followers would like to use that as a stopping point.

Artist Profile - Gracie

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